Should students be (financially) compensated for strike action by lecturers?

Regular readers of this blog will know that last year I was still employed part of the time at Cardiff University and during that period I was participating in strike action called by the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) over pensions. As a result of that action students on my module on Physics of the Early Universe missed quite a lot of lectures (and I was docked a large fraction of my pay).

I refused to do extra lectures after the strike was over to make up for those lost, as it seemed to me that defeated the point of the strike action, but I did make notes available for the students (which I do anyway). Students were also given access to recordings of the previous year’s lectures on the same module. I know some lecturers also adjusted their examinations and/or other assessments to exclude material that had not been covered.

It seems practice for dealing with this (admittedly difficult) situation has varied from institution to institution, and some students who feel that they missed out as a result of the strike have apparently asked to be compensated by their University. Institutions could of course pay compensation to students out of the money saved by not paying lecturers, but that wouldn’t go very far because only a small part of the £9000+ students pay in fees goes to the salaries of teaching staff. Another issue is that I recall one or two students didn’t come to lectures even before the strike started. Should they be compensated too?

Anyway I thought this might be an interesting topic for a poll, so here goes:

As always views are welcome through the comments box too!

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22 Responses to “Should students be (financially) compensated for strike action by lecturers?”

  1. None of the above.

    Teachers (not just university lecturers), like policemen, soldiers, air-traffic controllers, etc, should be civil servants for life with good salaries and high job security, in return for not being allowed to strike. That is the case in several countries.

    A strike makes sense for factory workers, say, because the longer the strike, the more money the employer loses. A strike in a school, university, or hospital does put people under pressure, but the wrong people, who have no say in the matter (and the employer might even experience negative pressure* by saving some money by not having to pay those on strike).

    ———–
    * Obligatory mention of the cosmological constant. 🙂

    • iainmacl Says:

      Everyone should have the right to withdraw their labour. It’s a basic right.

      • Says who? If one turns it down in return for compensation (job security, etc), then this should be an option.

      • Dave Carter Says:

        That might be a reasonable argument in the days when tenure means job security, but as personnel/HR departments are quick to point out, these days a lecturer can be made redundant as easily as anybody else. With statutory compensation of course, but the job is no more secure than that of a factory worker.

      • Right. Teachers should be civil servants for life, as they are in some countries.

  2. Dark Energy Says:

    Of course they should be compensated. When train companies are
    late they need to pay the money for the ticket back at least
    in principle. If I get a damaged good from a shop they
    return my money. Why everyone wants the education to be free
    and not follow the
    free market economy. The teachers are employed by the Univeristy
    who charge money from the students. If teachers go on strike
    their salaries get deducted. So why not return this money to the
    customers (students) instead of using it to reward the deans and HoDs with higher salaries?

    Of course a related question is should universities use PDRAs
    to correct exam scripts or even act as a substitute lecturer?
    The answer is no unless they get paid extra. Their salary
    comes from funding agencies and universities should not
    steal that money to use them as handyman.

    And finally, should students be allowed to disrupt the classes/exams.
    The answer is simply no unless it is related to some local issue
    e.g. issues related to the University in question or Student life there.
    Global or national politics should be banned from University
    premises. This is important as thousands of school students
    who are as young as 12 are now being dragged from school
    every Friday into the streets to protest about pollution
    even before they reach the voting age.

      • Dark Energy Says:

        Teachers (in)directly encourage students so they can get a Friday off.

      • Maybe some teachers do, but others object to it. Whatever one thinks of pupils protesting in general or of this protest in particular, claiming that all teachers drag all students to it is absurd.

      • Dark Energy Says:

        I am sure there are teachers who don’t support the protest.
        They are not majority.

    • telescoper Says:

      UK research councils such as SFTC only pay 80% of the cost of employing a PDRA. The remainder comes from the University, as does the cost of office accommodation etc. PDRAs are employees of the University, not the research council.

      A bit of teaching experience is good for a PDRA’s future employment prospects as most available jobs involve lecturing. Of course it’s a different matter if the PDRA is offered some teaching and does it so badly that word gets around.

      • Dark Energy Says:

        The other 20% should go to provide basic amenities
        that many universities lack e.g. clean toilets, less crowded
        office space with a controlled level of noise.

        Number of students in many Universities have increased
        exponentially in recent years which means one can end up with
        marking more than 100 copies. This is very different
        from what it used to be few years back.

        A very low percentage of PDRA’s actually eventually make
        it to lecturing positions – so not sure how teaching can help
        someone who is already into developing codes for
        a space project.

      • telescoper Says:

        You want a 20% pay cut then?

  3. Dark Energy Says:

    I don’t know any PDRA who do not work over the week ends.
    I know many who has never taken any annual leave in last 5 years.
    So in effect a lot of us actually donate a lot more than
    20% of our salary.

    • Why? If it is a voluntary decision, presumably it is worth it to you, otherwise you wouldn’t do it.

      • Dark Energy Says:

        When lecturers/IT/Nurses guys go on a strike complaining
        about long working hours would you ask the same question?

      • They usually don’t complain about work they have not contracted to do, but rather strike for a pay rise etc, which is legitimate if the employer doesn’t offer a sensible one voluntarily.

      • Dark Energy Says:

        Many lecturer actually do complain about extra work load
        as number of students have increased drastically. Many
        school teachers have exactly the same issue when they
        go for strike as number of school students have increased
        drastically but councils lack funds to build new schools.
        Many post docs end up supervising more than two MSc
        students which results in theses work. They often teach
        to cover paternity leave or when teaching staff are at a
        meeting or conference. They also are required to check
        exam scripts even more than 100s in term time. Some
        organise departmental seminars/meetings. Research
        is not like any other job. In principle it is 37.5 hours and
        you are simply required to do 20% of other stuff but this
        doesn’t make sense when what constitutes 100% is not
        clear. And of course these are mainly temporary jobs
        and so PDRAs are at the mercy of their departmental bosses.
        Some have family and suffers from extreme anxiety.
        But no one questions the system. I know some
        who would even be ready to spend time to help in
        a curry house or cash & carry if the dept. tells them it
        will help their career in the long run.
        Some of these PDRAs work in an extremely crowded
        conditions. Many departments lack basic facilities.
        Available facilities are allocated to students
        who have paid huge money. The faculties don’t have
        to worry because it’s them who make the decisions.
        In winter some offices can be freezing and summer
        the offices can have huge noise of grass mower when
        the students are not organising a leaving do or freshers
        welcome. Many of them work all week ends and
        there are some who actually haven’t taken a single
        annual leave in last five or more years. The dark side
        of how research in academia never gets told and no one
        is interested to hear.

  4. Students pay extortionate fees, so is there not some written agreement which specifies what they get in return for those fees? If the university cannot fulfil what the extortionate fees obliged it to, then it absolutely should compensate the students.

    However, I voted “no” in the poll, for the wider principle that I think it’s obscene that students have to pay any fees at all. They should pay no fees, and thus suffer no financial loss that needs compensating.

    • Improvement 1: there should be no fees but still compensation. Improvement 2: university teachers should be civil servants for life without the right to strike.

      Lookup “Montreal police strike” if you really think that it is a good idea that civil servants should be able to strike.

  5. stallphill Says:

    Yes, in principle students should be reimbursed for services not rendered. Imagine at the bargaining table how the tide will change (in favor of striking faculty and staff!) once admin has to factor in the revenue losses.

    • Is that is what it has come to? As I recently quoted in a comment on another post here at this blog, “is there anything left in England that’s not for sale?” There is a danger that people realize the price of everything, but the value of nothing.

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